Bram Stoker's Vampires

Bram Stoker’s Vampires is a cultural heritage experience in the form of a location-based augmented-reality game. Set in Trinity College Dublin, the game turns players’ smartphones into paranormal detection devices that they use to solve a mystery based on the Irish writer’s most famous novel. Bram Stoker was a student in Trinity College 1864-1870, and the experience lets the audience engage with the writer’s literary heritage in a location that is not only atmospherically engaging, but also resonates with the writer’s personal history in a novel way.

While most smartphone games expect players to engage with a game world confined to a tiny screen, Bram Stoker’s Vampires is a game set in the real world. Its content uses augmented reality to provide a supernatural ‘overlay’ for the players’ surroundings, consisting of both visuals and audio. As players explore their physical environment to locate paranormal activity, they discover haunting characters and stories and build up their own personal collection of mysterious photographs to document these spooky encounters.

The game is designed to resonate with Bram Stoker’s novel not only in terms of content, but also in terms of storytelling techniques. The novel takes the form of fragments: a collection of “evidence” (newspaper clippings, personal letters, diary entries, medical journal extracts) that readers must assemble in their minds to construct the narrative internally. Similarly, the game requires the audience to assemble evidence in the form of photos, audio clips and journal entries, but first they must collect this evidence from the very campus where the famous writer spent his formative years. In this fashion, the game adds a spatial fragmentation of the story to Stoker’s structural fragmentation, and also gives the audience a very active role as actual investigators. The act of assembling the fragments to construct the narrative internally is now physical as well as mental.

Another storytelling technique adapted from Stoker’s novel is that of temporal and spatial transgression. In the novel, the villain Count Dracula is a Medieval lord who transgresses on the Victorian protagonists in several ways: temporally by virtue of being from a much older period; spatially by virtue of physically coming to England from Transylvania; and even in terms of power by virtue of challenging the protagonists’ power (which is based on Science, specifically Medicine) with that of his own (which is Supernatural). The game retains Medieval and Victorian characters and the transgression between them, but it adds a third period: the Present in which the audience serve as protagonists whose source of power is Technological (the smartphone). The transgression experienced in the novel is doubled in the game, because both the Medieval and Victorian characters transgress on the Present through their haunting of the audience.

The app is technically sophisticated and uses the handset’s camera, GPS and compass and orientation sensors in combination with high-quality visuals and audio to ensure a highly immersive experience. No QR codes or markers are used in order to retain a the pretension to veracity that also characterises Stoker’s novel and hence maximise the audience’s immersion into the story experience. The photographs taken by the audience of the paranormal phenomena can easily be shared via Facebook and Twitter. The game contains three game modes shown below. The Map Mode and Radar Mode help the audience explore the heritage site in order to find the characters. The Ghostview Mode allows the audience to interact with the characters and gather evidence, which is collected in Casebook Mode that serves as a story reference.

While the game is best experienced in Trinity College, it can also be played in “Random” mode, in which case it adapts itself to wherever the audience happens to be. In this mode, the game is best played in an open area, such as a park or a forest. Bram Stoker’s Vampires takes up to an hour to complete and is best played with earphones or headphones. As the game is set outdoors, it requires good audience awareness of traffic and dangerous terrain.

Bram Stoker’s Vampires was commissioned by Science Gallery for their 2012-2013 exhibition GAME and aims to reinvent the traditional Gothic ghost story using modern technologies. It won two awards at the 2013 Irish Games Fleadh: Best Original Innovation in Gaming and Best in Gameplay, and received a nomination for Best Audio.

Download the game for Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.hauntedplanet.branded.bramstokersvampires

Download the game for iOS: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/haunted-planet-ghost-hunt/id564613390

Full credits for the app can be found from the app’s credit screen or from http://www.bramstokersvampires.com/?page_id=19